One of the best things about birthdays is the birthday cake. A great symbol of the celebration of someone’s special day. With people singing happy birthday as you have lit candles waiting to be blown out. But what happens if the birthday girl or boy doesn’t like cake. How do you still make a birthday tea special. Think about alternative birthday cakes.

Where does the birthday cake tradition come from?

The Ancient Greeks were believed to be the first to celebrate special days with a ‘cake’ and candles to symbolise the brightness of the moon.

But it was the Germans in the 15th Century who started to celebrate Kinderfest for birthday children with a bread-like cake. By the 17th Century, these became much more elaborate decorated sweet cakes with layers, only affordable for the rich. The industrial revolution made equipment and ingredients within reach of the masses, so birthday cakes more akin to today’s became popular.

Adding the song Happy Birthday was more recent, becoming a tradition in the 1900s.

Alternative birthday cake ideas

Birthday cakes

The cake itself can be any style nowadays. Some, like my son, prefer something more basic – the last few year’s he’s requested a Victoria Sponge (he’s had a frosted traybake for parties to hand out). Others prefer to go all out themed cake, shaped works of art with decorations. Others prefer to let the colours or elegance speak for themselves with multiple layers and more subtle colours and toppers. Not everyone bakes cakes (I can bake, but am terrible at decorating and icing), and others can’t afford the prices to pay for a personalised cake.

Anything goes nowadays.

Some children don’t like a cake with tonnes of icing on it. Others would prefer a sweet treat they enjoy more. But still want that special-ness with candles in. So here’s alternative birthday cake ideas suitable for children of any age.

Alternative birthday cake ideas

(For most of these alternatives, just cut up and pile on a plate or tray, sticking a candle or 2 in the top)

Chocolate fridge cake – it’s an overload of chocolate, but is no bake. It can be just as special – just add in favourite extras like popcorn, marshmallows, or other sweet treats, and add sprinkles to the top. Get my chocolate tiffin / refrigerator cake recipe.

chocolate fridge cake pieces

Waffles – pile them up on a plate, add berries and drizzle over melted chocolate and chopped nuts. Have ice cream or whipped cream ready to add for serving.

waffles and fruit stack

Stack of gingerbread cookies or other cookie shapes. Stack them up in decreasing size – try stars or heart shapes.

Donuts – pile up favourite donuts, filled or rings. Keep plain if they’re already decorated, but you can add whatever toppings to sprinkle over as required.

donut stack

Cinnamon buns – decorate with icing coloured to fit the birthday theme, and add sprinkles

Profiteroles – think like a croquembouche but more relaxed, with profiteroles, drizzling melted chocolate over.

profiteroles on a cake stand

Ice cream cake – If you can keep it frozen before serving. Layer up slightly softened ice creams flavours in a loaf tin, freezing before the next layer, or add in different layers of additions like crushed berries, meringues or swirled colouring, then turn out and serve.

Iced biscuits – opt for themed iced biscuits, no need to stack these, and unlikely to get a candle stuck in, but great if you have a birthday party as they’re easy to hand out and divide up. See my bowling ball biscuits recipe.

macaroons and iced biscuits

Popcorn cake Just popcorn, sweets, pretzels and melted marshmallows to hold it together. Then press into a cake mould, leave to set then remove and serve.

Pancakes – use crepes or American style to create different types of alternative ‘cakes’. Stack on a plate with nutella or another spread inbetween the layers, then top with cream or drizzle over berries.

Brownies or blondies – just stack on a plate, decorate with sprinkles and drizzle of chocolate sauce or icing if wanted.

Fruit grazing board – use whatever theme you want to create coloured fruit and sweet charcuterie boards. Add toppers to finish off the party theme.

Cheese – create a cheeseboard tower for those who prefer savoury to sweet (maybe more for the adults).

What alternative birthday cakes have you ever served?

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4 Comments

  1. I feel like I enjoyed birthday cake more as a child. It can be too sweet now and the frosting is usually terrible, at least for store bought cakes. For my daughter’s birthday last year, we did a stack of pancakes, blueberry syrup and whipped cream for breakfast. (Had to start her special day off right!). Later in the day, she got a gigantic cupcake from the bakery with a candle on top. It was fully decorated and big enough for her to enjoy for a few days. This worked perfect for us. I do like the idea of decorated cookies for a kids birthday. Decorating them could even be part of the entertainment for the party. Great ideas, here.

    ~ Cassie

    • Emma

      I’d agree with you on the sweetness. We don’t really have buttercream icing as N prefers simple cakes with glace or even just a plain victoria sponge. He would definitely go for pancakes though – he loves those. Thanks for stopping by

  2. How interesting to read. I didn’t realise tha tthe tradition of singing Happy birthday came so late. We love birthday cake here but when my fella and my girls have their birthdays we’re sick of it as we have their 3 birthdays in the space of a month.
    What great ideas. x

    • Emma

      Birthdays here are a bit like that in January. Cake isn’t so bad when I’m eating it too, but they never get through it, even if they take it over to the farm at break times.

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